San Diego is a haven for workout buffs and it's no wonder - mild weather year round means keeping those beach bodies toned.
One of the most fun and easy ways to torch calories is with group exercise classes, which are exploding in popularity. Boot camps and yogis take over the lawn of Mission Bay every evening; CrossFit and other specialty gyms have opened shop in just about every San Diego neighborhood; even mega-chains, such as 24 Hour Fitness, have stepped up their group classes with expanded schedules and proprietary workouts.
And while the benefits of group workouts are numerous - social interaction, the competitive challenge, the girl-to-guy ratio, not running in place on a treadmill for an hour - there is one distinct drawback that keeps many people away: They can be pretty intimidating for first-timers.
Don't let first-time anxiety keep you from experiencing this great way to enjoy San Diego, meet new people, get fit and have fun doing it. Here are some tips to help you get started.
1. Ask around. Unless you moved from Wisconsin yesterday, chances are you know someone who goes to a group class and loves it. Ask your co-workers, friends, bartender or mechanic what they're doing to stay in shape and if it sounds like something you'd enjoy, ask to tag along. It's great to have a buddy who's already familiar with the class to explain any unfamiliar moves or terms. That way you don't have to single yourself out in front of the whole group. Most gyms offer free or discounted guest passes, so you can check out a class without a big financial commitment.
2. Do some research, but not too much. It's 2015, so of course you'd be remiss if you didn't Google your options. Just remember that nothing on the Internet is going to tell you as much as showing up in person and giving it a whirl. Businesses can buy positive reviews online, or one person's bad review from four years ago can tip the scale unevenly, so don't get bogged down reading every Yelp profile. Pick a few options that are conveniently located and fit your budget, and go for it.
3. Know yourself, your body, your goals and, most importantly, your limits. Recovering from a torn ACL? Then a high-intensity plyometric class isn't for you. Similarly, don't join a marathon training club if you hate running. If you haven't lifted weights since high school, don't try to bench 220 on your first day of CrossFit. Trying to do too much too soon is a nearly guaranteed path to injury, and choosing a workout that doesn't excite you is an easy way to throw your money away.
4. Be the new person. Just own it. Every person in that class was a newbie at some point, so there's no reason to be shy. A good instructor will always prefer to take an extra moment to explain a move rather than have you perform it incorrectly. If you're trying a class for the first time, show up a few minutes early to introduce yourself and go over the basics. Chances are the instructor will give you just the right amount of special attention to get you hooked and coming back for more.